Data Visualization: Training for Business Journalists

by April 1, 2014

Copyright Daniel Hom and

This training was originally held during the Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW) Spring Conference in Phoenix, March 27, 2014.

Data visualization is revolutionizing journalism, and on a business beat, where numbers often serve as a story’s backbone, understanding when and how to use this tool equips reporters with a highly marketable skill that also enhances their daily reporting.

The training covered basic data visualization concepts, such as how to visualize categories and ordinal numbers, as well as how to avoid “chart junk,” or info that doesn’t add to the value of the visual.

For examples of data visualizations, many of them produced by journalists, please see’s gallery.


  • How data visualization is used for not only supporting stories, but also discerning trends in data that lead to new stories.
  • How data looks when reporters receive it from an accountant or economist and how to clean and prepare it for visualization software.
  • How to build visuals from data sets using Google tools and its API
  • How to place visuals on a simple Web page.
Dianne Finch, Reynolds Visiting Business Journalism Professor

Dianne Finch, Elon University


Dianne Finch is a visiting assistant professor of communications at Elon University. She joined Elon in spring 2013 as the Reynolds Visiting Professor in Business Journalism. She used her software programming skills to spot story ideas in Census 2000 data for The Associated Press. She then acquired a master’s in journalism at Columbia University, adding it to her economics degree. She reported for Bloomberg News on finance and worked the health-science beat at New Hampshire Public Radio.

Check out the resources below for getting started on visualizations that will help make your data reporting pop.

Session recordings

PowerPoint presentation